Former Education Secretary backs Catholic Union campaign to “scrap the cap”

Former Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, has backed the Catholic Union’s campaign to scrap the cap on faith-based admissions to new free schools.

Ms Kelly, who is a Vice President of the Catholic Union, described the policy as “frustrating” and said that lifting the cap was a “very sensible approach”.

The Catholic Union, which launched the campaign earlier this summer, is encouraging people to add their names to an open letter calling for the cap to be lifted. The letter is available to sign on the Catholic Union’s website.

Over 700 people have now signed the letter to the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan. The Catholic Union is making a final push for signatures ahead of Education Sunday on 10th September.

The endorsement from Ruth Kelly, who served as a Minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, builds on the backing from several Catholic Bishops in England. Earlier this month, Bishop Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds, and Chairman of the Catholic Education Service, said he was “pleased to support the campaign.”

The 50 percent cap on faith-based admissions applies to oversubscribed free schools with a religious character in England. Introduced by the Coalition Government in 2010, the cap has made it impossible for Catholic Bishops to sanction new Catholic free schools as it would lead to pupils being turned away on the basis of their Catholic faith.

The Catholic Union, along with the Catholic Education Service and others, has been calling for the policy to be reversed since it was first introduced. The 2017 Conservative manifesto committed to lifting the cap, but this was never achieved.

As well as making Catholic education more widely available, the letter to the Education Secretary says that lifting the cap “would help boost morale” in a sector that has struggled with pay and conditions and the pressure of inspections.

Catholic Union Vice President, Ruth Kelly, commented: “Catholic schools are some of the best in the country. The care and quality of the teaching is recognised by parents and pupils of all faiths and none. It is clearly frustrating that a policy designed to make it easier to open schools outside local authority control has actually made it harder in some cases. Lifting the cap, and allowing the Catholic Church in this country to take part in the free school programme along with other groups in society, is a very sensible approach. I’m pleased to be supporting this campaign from the Catholic Union.”